Introduction: How to Dry Herbs

Have you ever bought a bunch of fresh herbs for a recipe and then been faced with leftover sprigs. You tell yourself that you will use them, because they are so fresh and beautiful – but two weeks later you pull them out of the fridge, forgotten, limp and unusable?

Well, not to worry. I have a very simple solution to ease your conscience and keep your dinner plates rich in flavor.

Drying/Dehydrating is the oldest form of food preservation. And air-drying herbs is the easiest form of this preservation technique. In this instructable, I'll show you how to best dry and preserve extra herb bounty!

Step 1: Safe Home Food Preservation

This recipe is a project that I made to go with my Instructables Canning & Preserving Class. I will not be going over all the safety ins and outs of drying and dehydrating for food perservation in this instructable, so I highly recommend that you read through Lessons 1 & 6 of my class before you give this a go!

Step 2: Supplies

Optional:

Step 3: Drying Hearty Herbs

If you're harvesting your own herbs to dry, it's best to pick them on the morning you plan to hang them, after the dew has dried. This will help prevent wilting. If you're buying herbs from the farmers market, handle them gently and keep them in water like cut flowers until you're ready to prepare them for drying.

Remove any dirt and dark, crushed, or otherwise unappealing leaves. Wash the remaining leaf filled stems carefully and lay them out on paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to air dry.

Herbs that do best with air drying in small bunches are the following less tender varietals:

  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • summer savory
  • parsley

Divide them into small bunches and either wrap the bundle ends in butcher's twine for hanging, or use a rubber band to secure them. I prefer the twine because the dangling length offers more options for ways to hang the bunches.

NOTE: It's important the bunches are small otherwise, the moisture can get trapped near where the ends come together and cause mold to grow.

The herbs retain the best color and flavor if they are dried in a well ventilated indoor area that is out of direct sunlight. I like to use clothespins to hang them from a suspended dowel, but you can really hang them from anything as long as it's in an appropriate location.

Step 4: Drying Tender Herbs

The following tender leaf herbs have a higher moisture content and benefit from being dried inside paper bags with holes cut out of them for air flow. (The bag absorbs some of that extra moisture.):

  • basil
  • oregano
  • tarragon
  • lemon balm
  • mints

Here's how to prepare a bag for drying herbs in:

Cut down a standard paper lunch bag so that it's slightly shorter than the herb bundle it will envelope.

Use scissors or a hole punch to cut holes in the bag for air flow, making sure to put one in the center of the bottom of the bag for the string and herb stems to go through.

Like so!

String the end of the twine up through the hole in the bottom of the bag and pull the herb bunch up until the stem ends poke though.

It is now ready to be hung and dried in a well ventilated indoor area that is out of direct sunlight. Depending on the humidity in your house, air drying herbs should take anywhere from 4-7 days.

Step 5: How to Tell When They're Completely Dry

Herbs dried either way are ready to be put in storage containers when they are crispy dry and crumble easily when crushed between your thumb and forefinger.

Beautiful dried herbs!

NOTE: Another way to dry larger leaved herbs like mint, sage, and bay is to remove the individual leaves from the stems and lay them in single layers, without touching, on paper towel. Top with another paper towel and continue layering and stacking leaves and paper towels. You can go as high as five layers! Leave the stack in the (cold) oven overnight and the oven light of an electric or pilot light of a gas range is plenty warm to help these dry out quickly (but not too quickly).

Step 6: Storing Dried Herbs

Once the herb bunches are dry, remove the leaves by running your (clean) thumbnail down the stem, scraping off the leaves or picking the larger ones off one by one.

Like so!

Store the herbs in airtight containers (I love using canning jars).

Label/date the freshly filled airtight containers and store in a cool, dry, dark place like a cupboard or pantry. As long as moisture doesn't get introduced into the containers, the dried foods should last indefinitely.

NOTE: Dried herbs are 3 - 4 times stronger than fresh herbs, so when replacing fresh with dried in a recipe that calls for fresh, add 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of dried herbs.

Step 7: To the Pantry and Beyond!

For more drying/dehydrating projects and to learn about other food preservation methods like:

  • Canning
  • Vinegar Pickling
  • Lacto-fermentation

Enroll in my free online Instructables Canning & Preserving Class!

Comments

author
pemazzei (author)2017-06-01

Hi Paige,

Great! Can I use the microwave to dry them?

This method of hang them I already used and works fine.

We have a small pepper in Brazil and we call it "comari", realy hot!! Looks like a small olive oil fruit, but is gree, yellow and some red.

How to dry them?

Best

Paulo

author
NikyN2 (author)pemazzei2017-06-12

I once tried the microwave.

I burned/charred the herbs, and they were weird-tasting afterwards, and yet not completely dry. I ended tossing them up. from then on, I just buy them dried (even though I recently got an oregano plant that I'll have to harvest this late summer....)

maybe on the grill setting it could work. dunno. my next attempt will be as per the instructable, that's for sure. no more microwave-drying for me.

author
CPUDOCTHE1. (author)pemazzei2017-06-01

I would not use a microwave. Microwaves make the water molecules move around real fast (heat) and would probably get the herbs to hot and cause them to decompose somewhat or maybe make them explode like microwaved potatoes if you don't poke holes in them. P.S. Don't try to dry a cat in the microwave either. Tried it once and it was more of a mess than a potato without holes poked in it.

author
jvandeyacht (author)CPUDOCTHE1.2017-06-01

Yea, those dang cats make more noise than 3 frogs at the same time do too.... in all seriousness, microwave ovens cook and destroy the cell walls, air dried herbs and peppers are best. Just like when smoking meats, slow and low last forever where as fast and hot spoils the pot.

author
tkjtkj (author)2017-06-04

Thanks!... helpful!

question: would it be wrong/problematic were one to dry them in a convection oven (with door slightly ajar) at ? 140F ??

author
Paige Russell (author)tkjtkj2017-06-05

That would definitely work. Set the timer for two hours and then check them every 30 minutes after that until they are completely dry.

Happy making!

author
soy_bean (author)2017-06-03

very informative! I usually let herbs dry on the vine (by forgetting to water them) that works too right?

author
Paige Russell (author)soy_bean2017-06-05

Hehe, that is definitely another way to do it! I've done that myself one or two times. :D

author
dbolobita (author)2017-06-02

Thanks for info. Can I use a dehydrator to dry herbs?

author
Paige Russell (author)dbolobita2017-06-02

You sure could! Just put the dehydrator on it's lowest setting and set the timer for 2 hours. Check on the them every 30 minutes after the 2 hours is up.

author
Bille Nutmeg (author)2017-06-02

Nicely explained. You make it most approachable!

author

Thanks Bille! :D

author
jvandeyacht (author)2017-06-01

Paige.... I have never met a Paige that was not creative and awesome or one that I didn't like. Keep up the greatness.

author
GTO3x2 (author)2017-06-01

Really neat. Thanks.

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Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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